Flapping jeweled wings
As per Chaos Theory, the flapping of a butterfly’s wings somewhere on earth can have long-time repercussions across the globe. Simply put, to have a sustainable self-sufficient ecosystem, all beings and species need to equally survive and flourish. The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown gave the environment a chance to recuperate and rejuvenate from the ravages of wilful human action.
From time immemorial, butterflies have always fascinated humankind. We feel that no group of insects is more charismatic than butterflies. Among insects, they are certainly the most popular, and that is probably why they are among the most studied insects. There was a time when butterflies were collected by hobbyists like postage stamps. Much information was generated during that period on their taxonomy, migration, variation, mimicry, speciation and evolutionary biology. Today several species of butterflies are used by conservation biologists as indicator species to identify habitats that are critical and need to be protected.
World of Lepidoptera (Butterfly)
The wonderful creations of God are seen everywhere. Ever since life came to existence the world was surrounded by colourful and charming winged jewels to honour Mother Earth. The prime quality initially created was with more prominent colours than found today. With rapid deforestation and industrialization, hardly open space is left for their survival and existence. Pure air, food and nectar plants in the wilderness are some of the prerequisites for their survival. Some of the species have become extinct and more will follow their path in the near future, till the time we wake up to see the remnants, which is, in fact, is irreversible process. The little that we can do is to offer a conducive environment for their survival. Let our coming generation see their existence and appreciate the world of vibrant colours. It is our conscience, which is still missing in the domain of initiative.
The different butterfly sizes range from the tiny jewels to gorgeous bird wings with a wingspan as great as eight inches. Almost all Indian butterflies are under threat, and some are critically endangered. Large areas, once forest or wasteland, full of wild plants that caterpillars eat, have now been cleared for agriculture; besides their habitat loss, the widespread use of insecticide has drastically reduced numbers. But a butterfly lover and nature lover finds their own way and so did we. COVID-19 gave us that opportunity to observe them closely and as we had plenty of time on our hands for us to explore, we encouraged and involved our neighbours to witness their life cycle and metamorphosis. The campus of MILIT, Pune was safe and quarantined from day one so permission was granted to residents to walk in the campus. We en-cashed this opportunity and made the best use of it and started looking for tiny eggs of the lime butterfly, mormon, Common crow etc.
Butterflies choose untouched green/clean area and wild plants for their caterpillars to grow and MILIT(Military Institute of Technology), Pune campus meets the above criteria. Their very existence indicates that the environment is conducive for humans to survive, as they are the indicators of a clean environment. With this apt information and our quest to know more about them, we started exploring the wild fauna and flora in search of butterflies. We found few caterpillars on curry leaves and lemon plants of our neighbours and collected for rearing in our makeshift house.
Although we (Mr A S Bishnoi, Mrs Shakti Bishnoi and our daughter Kanan Bishnoi) have been continuously working towards adding numerous winged jewel(butterflies) to our mother earth since 2009, COVID-19 gave us a full-time job to look for more and rear them. Since 2009 we have reared/nurtured 600 individual butterflies of 5 different species and the journey continues. During COVID-19 our figures have jumped to new heights. As the number of cases of the coronavirus infection is rising exponentially in the country, but we have a different reason to be ecstatic, for our reared butterfly numbers rose to 50 in two months(their life cycle time frame is 15 days generally from egg to butterfly) making it 650. It is a good figure, as we did parallel/multitasking processing with different plants.
Future Actions Required.
The butterfly’s existence is endangered and survival is critical. Their habitat needs to be protected as day by day the large areas, once forest or wasteland, full of wild plants that caterpillars eat, have now been cleared for agriculture, deliberate forest fire, stubble burning causes their habitat loss the widespread use of insecticide/pesticide to increase yield has drastically reduced numbers and few are extinct from earth. Concrete jungles, afforestation and rapid urbanization are taking a toll unless we create forests which are self-sustaining ecosystems, the butterfly faces grave danger of extinction which might lead to the extinction of the human race. Exploring other planets for transporting elite humans is not the solution. The area around MILIT campus was earlier inundated with butterflies of different species which we could not sight during our initial one year of stay. But COVID-19 played a vital role to restore the earth’s depleting species of various kinds to some extent. Every year we can call for a unanimous policy of shut down/lockdown in the phased manner in the entire world cumulatively for at least one month and achieve a marginal change in climate/global warming thereby making our stay comfortable.
How to save them
Awareness and creation of more wild space consisting of adequate wildflowers and host plants of butterflies and the creation of more butterfly gardens in the city are greatly needed. Every citizen is responsible for it. We even land up clearing our backyard grass, some species lay eggs on them as well. Educate children they are the future of this nation. Nowadays every child is well versed with how to use the gadget(mobile phones, tablets, laptops etc), but few take time to go outside the house and wander in jungle or backyard of their house and appreciate them. But COVID-19 gave us this opportunity to generate awareness. Almost all families residing in our neighbourhood learned the art of butterfly watching and children were enthusiastic to take this as a life-long project. Our little contribution to raise awareness has seen light at the end of the tunnel.
Let us start giving life and space to these species. If one in 10 can be nurtured, the balance in the ecosystem will increase the survival rate of other species. The little we can do is to offer a conducive environment for their survival. Let our coming generations be able to see their existence and appreciate the butterfly’s world of vibrant colours. It is our conscience, which is still missing in the domain of initiative. We all are born out of nature, but only a few contribute to enhance its glory. We think of searching/exploring life in our galaxy, but are least bothered about our own earth and keep on killing the species.